A name suffix, in the Western English-language naming tradition, follows a person's full name and provides additional information about the person. Post-nominal letters indicate that the individual holds a position, educational degree, accreditation, office, or honor.
Academic suffixes indicate the degree earned at a college or university. These include the bachelor's degree (A.B, B.A., B.S., B.E, B.F.A., B.Tech., L.L.B, B.Sc., etc.), the master's degree (M.A., M.S., M.F.A. LL.M, M.L.A., M.B.A., M.Sc., etc.), the professional doctorate (J.D., M.D., D.O., Pharm.D., etc.), and the academic doctorate (Ph.D., D.Phil., LL.D, Eng.D., etc.).
In the case of doctorates, either the prefix (e.g. "Dr." or "Atty.") or the suffix (e.g. "J.D.", "M.D.", "D.O.", "D.C.", or "Ph.D.") is used, not both. In the United States, the suffix is the preferred format (thus allowing differentiation between types of doctorate) in written documentation.
Such titles may be given by:
- a monarch (for example, K.B.E., a suffix granted to Knights Commander of the Order of the British Empire);
- a university (as in a LL.D. (Doctor of Laws) given in recognition of a person's life achievements rather than their academic standing);
- a church or seminary, who may offer an honorary Doctor of Divinity (D.D.) to outstanding ministers or teachers.
The style Esq. or Esquire was once used to distinguish a man who was an apprentice to a knight and is used for a man of socially high ranking; in the United States, Esq. or esq. is used both socially and as the professional styling for a lawyer.
||The examples and perspective in this section may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (July 2011)|
Professional titles include Esq., often used for an attorney (but not necessarily) in the US who has passed a state bar examination, and CSA (casting) and ASCAP, which indicate membership in professional societies. The suffix CA is used for individuals who have completed the requirements to become a Chartered Accountant. The suffix CPA is also used for individuals who have completed the requirements to become a Certified Public Accountant. Similarly, Chartered Financial Analysts use the suffix CFA. Engineers that are certified as a Professional Engineer in his or her state will use the suffix P.E., Certified Professional Geologists use P.G., Certified Professional Logisticians use CPL, and Chartered Engineers use CEng. Likewise, Registered Architects sometimes use the suffix R.A., or more often a suffix such as AIA or RIBA that refers to their professional society. Examination Office personnel within the United Kingdom who are registered with the Examination Officers' Association use MEOA.
Project managers that have obtained certification as Project Management Professionals from the Project Management Institute may use the suffix PMP after their name. Similarly, individuals who hold certifications in the field of information security – e.g. CISA, CISSP, and/or CISM – may use them as suffixes.
The suffix PT is used by Physical Therapists to denote their state certification, but not to be confused with DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy) which is a qualifying degree. UK physiotherapists prefer to use MCSP or SRP to denote membership to professional bodies. RGN is used by qualified nurses as a suffix.
Officers and enlisted in the United States Military will add an abbreviation of the service frequently to disambiguate seniority, and reserve status. For example, Captain Smith, USN (O-6), outranks Captain Jones, USMC (O-3).
Members of religious institutes will commonly use their institute's initials as a suffix to their personal name. For example, a Franciscan friar uses the post-nominal initials O.F.M., derived from the Order's name in Latin, Ordo Fratrum Minorum (Order of Friars Minor). Equally, a Viatorian priest uses the suffix C.S.V. from the name of his religious institute, Clerici Santi Viatori (Clerics of Saint Viator).
These initials are not considered by members of religious institutes as an equivalent to academic or honorary post-nominial initials, but rather as a sign of membership in a particular lineage, equivalent to Senior or Junior.
Generational suffixes are used to distinguish persons who share the same name within a family. A generational suffix can be used informally (for disambiguation purposes, or as nicknames) and is often incorporated in legal documents.
The most common name suffixes are senior and junior, most frequent in American usage, which are written with a capital first letter ("Jr." and "Sr.") with or without an interceding comma. The British English abbreviations are "Jnr" and 'Snr', respectively. The term "junior" is correctly used only if a child is given exactly the same name as his or her parent. When the suffixes are spelled out in full, they are always written with the first letter in lower case. Social name suffixes are far more frequently applied to men than to women (due to the common practice of women taking their husbands' surnames). In French, the designations for a father and son with the same name are père ("father") and fils ("son"). In Portuguese, common designations are Júnior (junior), Filho (son), Neto (grandson), and Sobrinho (nephew). In many other nations, it is considered highly unusual or even inauspicious to give a son the same first name(s) as his father, removing the need for such suffixes. Sons with a different middle name or initial may also be called Junior as a nickname, but unless the names are identical, the Jr. suffix is never used.
Alternatively, "II" is used instead of junior. A notable example of this is U.S. President Barack Obama, who was named after his father, and whose birth certificate shows Barack Hussein Obama II. However, the relative may also be an uncle, cousin, brother, or grandfather. The suffix "III" is used after either Jr or II and like subsequent numeric suffixes, does not need to happen in one family line. For example, if John and Bob Gruber are brothers and if Bob has a son before John, he will call his son John, II. If John now has a son, his son is John, Jr. As time passes, the III suffix goes to the first born of either John Jr or John II. This is how it is possible and correct for a Jr. to father a IV.
This notwithstanding, many men in the public eye misuse suffixes as an important part of their media management, as it is, in many cases, more indicative of ages than the more correct use of middle names or initials. An example of this is WWE chairman Vincent Kennedy McMahon who is sometimes credited as Vince McMahon, Jr. because his own father (Vincent James McMahon) was credited as Vince McMahon, Sr. Strikingly, the son of actor Lon Chaney, was billed by Hollywood as Lon Chaney, Jr., to capitalize on his father's success, even though he had an entirely different birth name: Creighton Tull Chaney. A similar situation exists with singer Hank Williams, whose birth name is actually Hiram King Williams. His son, Randall Hank Williams, is professionally known as Hank Williams, Jr. Randall's son Shelton Hank Williams is known professionally as Hank Williams III. In some cases, if a famous person already has a suffix but does not use it professionally, and names a son after himself using the next suffix, the son may publicly be known as a "Jr." despite this; the most famous example is Desi Arnaz, Jr. (who was born, in short, Desi Arnaz IV), the son of bandleader, actor and producer Desi Arnaz III.
Although there are instances of daughters who are named after their mothers and thus use the suffix "Jr." (such as Winifred Sackville Stoner, Jr., Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, Jr., and Carolina Herrera, Jr.) or after their grandmothers with the suffix "II", this is not common. Usually, the namesake is given a different middle name and so would not need a suffix for differentiation. Furthermore, once the woman marries she would most commonly take the surname of her husband and thus do away with the generational suffix. The title "Jr." is sometimes used in legal documents, particularly those pertaining to wills and estates, to distinguish among female family members of the same name.
A wife who uses the title Mrs. would also use her husband's full name, including the suffix. In less formal situations, the suffix may be omitted. Hence: Mrs. Lon Chaney Jr. on a wedding invitation, but Mrs. L. Chaney or simply Shannon Chaney for a friendly note. Widows are entitled to retain their late husband's full names and suffixes but divorcees may not continue to style themselves with a former husband's full name and suffix, even if they retain the surname.
There is no hard-and-fast rule over what happens to suffixes when the most senior of the name dies. Etiquette expert and humorist Judith Martin, for example, believes they should all move up, but most agree that this is up to the individual families.
Only widows may use the Sr suffix, and it used to distinguish the widow of either the original or the closest from the original from the wife of the living closest to the original. It is equivalent to the term dowager.
In practice, it is quite uncommon for families to go beyond "III" in naming children, although there are notable exceptions: Tom Cruise, for instance, is actually Thomas Cruise Mapother IV, and the oldest sons of U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller (full name John Davison Rockefeller IV), former Major League Baseball pitcher Orel Hershiser and singer Usher (full name Usher Raymond IV) have "V" as their suffix.
Theodore Roosevelt V is another example; he would be Theodore Roosevelt VI, had the family consistently incremented suffix without regard to the death of ancestors, since U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt was actually a junior (named after his father). That family started numbering with the president as if he had actually been the senior.
Last, common nicknames for a junior or II include "Chip" (as in "chip off the old block") and "Bud" (predominantly in the American South). Likewise, common nicknames for a III are "Trip(p)", "Trace", and "Trey" which denote that the nameholder is the third in a line.
In the US the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators states that only males use suffixes and around 2.5% of the population use suffixes.
Ordering of post-nominal letters
- Hawaii Department of Health, "Certificate of Live Birth" (White House, 2011).
- Martin, Judith. (2005). Miss Manner's Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior. W. W. Norton. p. 55–6. Google preview retrieved 19 July 2009.
- Emily Post Best Question Archive (For the week of 12 March 2007). Emily Post Institute.
- "There is no law in Connecticut concerning the following legal name patterns: the proper use of junior, senior or a roman numeral after a name..." Names and Name Changes in Connecticut. Connecticut Judicial Branch Law Libraries, quoting Shockley v. Okeke, 48 Conn. Sup. 647, 659-660 (2004). Accessed 19 January 2009.
- Foreman Smokes Frazier
- Requirements for name collection, use and maintenance. (2003). American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.